June 24, 2024

tuning my message

a large sign that reads "CANADA" in Victoria, BC
photo caption: a large sign that reads “CANADA” in the harbor of victoria, b.c. this is an example of great messaging: it’s concise and eye-catching, even at night. it’s also valuable information for the americans who got lost and somehow ended up in canada. an example of bad messaging? using this photo in a blog post that has nothing to do with canada but will confuse readers who see it on linkedin.

A few weeks ago I shared some of my goals for my third year in business. One of those goals is to define myself for people who don’t know me yet. What do I do as a consultant? What makes me special? In what areas am I great at my job? These answers mattered less to the people who already knew my work. Many of my early clients were professional friends I had worked with during my career. They were familiar with the results I could deliver and already knew they wanted to work with me. But as my professional network continues to grow, the people I meet won’t have a built-in history with me. To win those new clients and improve my long-term success as a business, I need to sharpen how I sell my services.

This year I’m creating my first business plan with the help of Walt Brown of Motley Brown Consulting. He and I met through the City of Seattle’s Accounting and Business Consulting program. I realized through our work together that I wanted to be more clear about how I describe my services. The material I wrote when I started out doesn’t fit me very well anymore. It feels stilted or even dusty in places. I’ve grown as a consultant in the past two years—I’m starting to zero in on what I do best. I also know there are many talented and well-qualified consultants out there. This means I need to define my competitive advantages: what is it about my approach, skills, and experiences that are unique? In what ways do I stand out?

what i’m working on

For this work, I’m treating myself kind of like a client. I came up with a set of deliverables that, when complete, I can use for a variety of situations.

  • Short pitch. This is my elevator speech. It’s a quick summary of no more than two sentences.
  • Lengthier pitch. This one is a longer explanation of who I am and what I do. I could add/edit this to serve as my bio in most places.
  • What Future Emergent does. This explains what I’m selling, how I approach my work, and a few examples of what to expect. It describes my ideal client or gives a sense of who I want to work with.
  • What be the future does. In the last year or so I’ve started positioning this blog as a companion to Future Emergent. Having two identities can be confusing. I’d like to explain how I use both.

setting the foundation

I need to do some foundational work to help me develop my materials. To the above list of deliverables I would add:

  • Values and vision. How do I position myself in the world? What moves me? What inspires me?
  • Competitive advantage. What sets me apart from other consultants? If someone has to choose between me and other consultants, what might convince them that I’m the best for the job?
  • Details about me. What should a stranger know that would help them start to understand me? I don’t need to share my deepest secrets. I do want to show them what I’m passionate about, what drives me, what makes me tick.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. I’m sharing this rough and will add/subtract/clarify throughout this process.

Values and vision. I want to help create a better world, one that’s free of racism, gender-based discrimination, and other forms of oppression. At my core is a desire for everyone to feel like they belong. I’m tired of the injustices I find in the world I inherited. I can’t do nothing about them: no matter how overwhelming they are, I have to try. I and everyone else share the responsibility of fixing them. Emergent strategy is a worldview I identify with. I believe that we can start small, experiment, fail, and succeed in creating a new society.

Competitive advantage. I’m great at jumping into projects or organizations. It’s been a strength of mine throughout my career. I dig in easily to their culture and values. I can surface where those feel out of step with their actions. I connect fast with the mission of an organization, especially community-led entities. I use creativity and a clarity of vision to help make that mission more real. I’m a catalyst for bold change. I specialize in making that change feel less scary, less risky.

Details about me. I’m a cis and queer man. I come from Sri Lankan and Mexican ancestry. Racial justice is at the core of how I see the world and how I want to improve it. I’m a consultant, abolitionist, and writer. I spell my name using lowercase letters. I make connections between people and ideas. I love to cook. I love science fiction and reading in general. I’m from Texas but lived in the south before I moved to Seattle. I love barbacoa tacos and time-loop storylines.

time to build

Walt shared with me an example of a mission from Technology Access Foundation that could serve as their short pitch. They write, “We build collaborative relationships with public education to create access to transformative systems of learning for students and teachers of color to eliminate race-based disparities in an increasingly diverse society.” He explains that in one sentence, they describe:

  • their target audience
  • the results of their efforts
  • the people that will feel the impact of their work
  • the outcome they expect to have

That’s what I’ll try to convey in my short pitch. I’ll make my statement uniquely me, of course. For instance, I’ll make mine 2+ sentences and in plain language so it’s easier to digest.

what i’m doing next

I’ve already started by sharing and socializing these rough messages. I’ll continue to work with Walt as I finish my business plan. I could rehearse my messaging to friends who don’t know me well or aren’t familiar with my work. I’ll review what I have with messaging consultants to help me convey my message with clarity.

I’ve also thought about going even further by reaching out to my past clients. I could ask, “what about my work appealed to you? How would you describe my work to a colleague or potential client of mine?” Their input could help me see strengths or niches that I don’t.

If you have any thoughts on the above you’d like to share with me, please do get in touch! I’ll be back with an update when these ideas start to gel.


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photo of josh martinez

my name is josh martinez. i have always loved trying to understand systems, and the systems that built those systems. i spend a lot of time thinking about how to get there from here.

i own and operate a consulting practice, Future Emergent.

say hello: josh[at]bethefuture.space